One of the goals of the season was scored by the current top scorer of La Liga, Neymar, this past Sunday against Villarreal. Aside from this excellent performance, Neymar has, in general, stepped up in the absence of Messi, and elevated Barcelona to the top of the table. Abhijit Bharali writes a goal analysis for the 3 goals that Barcelona scored this past weekend.
Barcelona eased their way to the top of the Primera Division standings with a 3–0 win over Villarreal on the weekend. Two goals from Neymar and a penalty from Luis Suarez were enough for the Blaugrana to see off their potentially tricky opponents, but it was far from smooth sailing for the champions. Villarreal held their own in the first half, as intelligent positional play and covering from their five-man midfield afforded little to no space for Barcelona to build play centrally. It needed mistakes from Villarreal for Barca to force ahead, and the icing on the cake was provided by a stunning finish from Neymar in the dying stages of the game.
BARCELONA 3-0 VILLAREAL
Neymar goal (60′) Barcelona 1–0 Villarreal
Before the event of the goal , the visitors were keeping their shape and frustrating the home side. Andres Iniesta’s lofted ball into the box, a feature of Barca’s game so far with little space to play their way into the Villarreal 18-yard area, was dealt with easily by centre-back Victor Ruiz.
Barca, who pressed high and kept their usual high defensive line throughout the game barring the few minutes at the start of the first half, had their pressing triggers on as Villarreal looked to recycle the ball to effect a counter attack. Barca didn’t attack the second ball after losing the aerial duel in the first place.
This allowed Denis Suarez and Jonathan dos Santos to recycle the ball out of their own defensive third. When Dos Santos played the ball to captain Bruno Soriano in the ‘hole’ area, Barca’s press triggers of Iniesta and Sergi Roberto closed the man with the ball down. This forced Bruno into a mistake as he ceded possession to Sergio Busquets, who was Barca’s ball recycler as the deepest midfielder.
With Villarreal’s orientations already shifting into an attacking transition as they cleared the first Barca ball into the box and both Dos Santos and Denis Suarez were working a counter, Neymar was expertly threaded a through ball by Busquets. The Brazilian, who was behind right-back Mario Gaspar in the transition, took advantage of Villarreal’s weak shape at the back and capitalised to score the first goal.
Suarez goal (70′) Barcelona 2–0 Villarreal
There is nothing of note to describe a penalty, but it was clear how Barca earned for themselves a penalty as Villarreal attacked in search of an equaliser. Marcelino took off sitting midfielder Tomas Pina for striker Cedric Bakambu in the 66th minute and switched to a more attack-minded 4–4–2 set-up, which signalled a departure from their 4–5–1 he started the game with.
With Bakambu partnering Roberto Soldado up front, Villarreal had lesser bodies in midfield which somewhat opened the centre for more Barca control. Barcelona have been effective in counter attacks this season, and another break allowed Roberto to run at the Villarreal defence in a move which started with Barca winning the ball in the middle third and involved quick progression diagonally.
The following screenshot shows Roberto on the ball before passing to Munir on his right. Left-back Jaume Costa is caught between sticking tight to Munir and covering for the unattended run of Roberto, and allows Munir far more space to run at him. Costa then committed an ill-advised foul and conceded a penalty which was clearly avoidable.
It was Suarez who took the penalty, his first this season, and calmly slotted it past Alphonse Areola, who had a solid day but ended up letting in three goals.
Neymar goal (85′) Barcelona 3–0 Villarreal
By the time Neymar scored his second goal, the game was virtually over with neither team playing with much intensity. Marc Bartra’s high clearance somehow found its way to Suarez in the Villarreal half with Neymar making a run down the middle. It was a 2v3 situation for Barca but the situation looked more advantageous for them than for Villarreal for the supposed individual superiority of Suarez and Neymar. Suarez’s cross from the left-hand side bypassed the two Villarreal centre-backs into Neymar’s feet, whose excellent finish produced one of the goals of the season. The Brazil captain flicked Suarez’s cross over his and Costa’s head and then hit a volley on the turn to seal the three points and top spot for his side.
Written by Abhijit Bharali
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